Want that quick fix? This blog is meant to be a quick guide for you to read during your coffee break and get you to consider the other side of climbing training and injury prevention…or toilet reading! If you want more in depth info, feel free to message us and we will send you some research papers for you to read through or more information on a specific point. You might also give us ideas for future blogs.
My personal crux and addiction. Caffeine can enhance performance when consumed 15-60 minutes prior to exercise. It stimulates blood flow to muscles and the neural activation of muscle contraction. This combined with its ability to lower your feeling of fatigue and how you rate the physical exertion of an activity means you will feel you can climb for longer and won’t feel so drained.
Caffeine has been proven to increase your peak power output (your body’s ability to produce a force quickly) and is beneficial for high-intensity exercise of prolonged duration; so if you have had a hectic week, are in competition mode, or training for 1 hour plus it could be that little extra to top out that route or problem.
It also enhances glycogen resynthesis (your energy stores) in the recovery phase after exercising allowing your muscles to replenish themselves for your next session.
Note: Low to moderate doses are recommended; above 9 mg/kg will not enhance performance so maybe don’t down 5 flat whites in one go.
- Sleep (Zzzz…..)2
The motor learning process (your body learning how to move up the wall using all those crimps and slopers) happens during sleep. So all that hard work developing climbing technique needs to be reinforced in your dreams. Growth hormone is also released during sleep. This helps with tissue regeneration; crucial in muscle growth. All those pull ups, sit ups and squats will be even more effective at improving muscle growth and strength if you get that shut eye.
Reduced sleep quality impacts your nervous system. It alters hormones and can simulating over-training syndrome; making you feel those aches and pains more and leaving you feeling weaker and lethargic, and effects cognitive performance altering your decision making and reaction time. You are also more likely to get injured as an athlete if you sleep less than 8 hours a night.. So get those 8 hours of shut eye!
A power nap has also been proven to restore wakefulness, promote learning and boost memory. Enhance both physical and cognitive performance, reduce stress and immune compromise through a poor night sleep. Plus if you have a coffee just before you have a power nap the caffeine will kick in after 15-20 minutes and you will avoid that groggy feeling after your nap3.
- Drink chocolate milk4
Lots of research has been done on the bog standard all natural milk beverage. Millions of pounds are spent by sport nutrition companies to improve recovery following exercise. However, if you are after a cheap and easy solution to reduce muscle soreness then stick chocolate milk on your shopping list.
It has been proven to lower muscle soreness following exercise, and allows further sustained climbing compared to those who didn’t consume the tasty beverage.. Is that not the best news ever – more climbing and reassurance that you are allowed a chocolate milkshake?? There is lots of research out there on milk as an appropriate recovery drink and because you aren’t pounding the pavements mile after mile milk may just be what you need.. Go on you know you want to.
Read the route! If you are struggling to work out the beta, mentally see yourself successfully climbing the route or section and physically act it out; you will see so many of the professional climbers doing this. Gymnasts and divers are famous for mentally rehearsing their routine before they compete. There is science behind it too! If you imagine you are activating your muscles you can increase the force production of your muscles and improve the ability of your muscles to activate and therefore perform5. This along with the understanding that mental imagery not only promotes motor learning of both static postural tasks and improves performance of highly variable and unpredictable balance actions6. This surely must make you consider visualising your climb first!
- Muscle activation7
Consider this a sneaky word for warm-up. Research has shown that athletes perform better in their respective sporting challenges after they have recruited their muscles effectively. Studies are currently being performed as to how best warm-up your muscles to allow them to produce as much power (force/time) as possible. If you can get your brain to communicate more efficiently with your muscles and encourage the nerve pathways to allow them to better recruit the needed muscles you will more efficiently and effectively use your muscles allowing them to generate higher forces.
Activating your muscles successfully has shown improvements in jump height, upper limb ballistic movements, sprinting and throwing. This post-activation potentiation as they call it can be useful in climbing by preparing your muscles better to cope with the demands of a climb. If you are imaginative there are many ways you can very quickly prepare your muscles, have a rest and then attempt your nemesis having successfully warmed them up.
Consider weighted pull-ups, maximal duration holds on a particular pinch, plyometric jumps and lunges on/ off the boxes, specific open-handed finger positions held until failure/ lock offs on the fingerboard/ training area … the list goes on! Here is your new climbing routine – 1.Warm up 2. Muscle Activation 3. FLASH!
So there you have it 5 relatively simple snippets to consider when you are training and climbing. Why not try to incorporate them in your training and recovery to see if they improve your climbing and reduce those aches and pains.
- Sokmen, B., Armstrong, L. E., Kraemer, W. J., Casa, D. J., Dias, J. C., Judelson, D. A. & Maresh, C. M. 2008. Caffeine use in sports: considerations for the athlete. J Strength Cond Res, 22, 978-86.
- Hausswirth, C., Mujika, I. (2013). Recovery for Performance in Sport. London: Human Kinetics.
- Reyner, L. A. & Horne, J. A. 1997. Suppression of sleepiness in drivers: combination of caffeine with a short nap. Psychophysiology, 34, 721-5.
- Potter, J. & Fuller, B. 2014. The effectiveness of chocolate milk as a post-climbing recovery aid. J Sports Med Phys Fitness.
- Di Rienzo, F., Blache, Y., Kanthack, T.F., Monteil, K., Collet, C. & Guillot, A. 2015. Short-term effects of integrated motor imagery practice on muscle activation and force performance. Neuroscience, 305:146-56
- Taube, W., Lorch, M., Zeiter, S. & Keller, M. 2014. Non-physical practice improves task performance in an unstable, perturbed environment: motor imagery and observational balance training. Front Hum Neurosci, 8,
- Seitz, L. B. & Haff, G. G. 2015. Factors Modulating Post-Activation Potentiation of Jump, Sprint, Throw, and Upper-Body Ballistic Performances: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis. Sports Med